CHLS Seminar: Addiction Veridiction: mobilising gender in legal accounts of addicted agency

Dr Kate Seear


In this presentation, Dr Kate Seear explores the question of whether and in what ways the law and legal processes work to stabilise addiction as a health problem or ‘disease’. She also explores the associated gender implications of these practices and the means through which legal processes that stabilise ‘addiction’ simultaneously constitute gender and agency. Drawing upon qualitative interviews with lawyers in Australia and Canada and the theoretical framework of science and technologies scholar Bruno Latour (in particular his anthropological analysis of scientific and legal ‘modes of existence’) Dr Kate Seear explores legal processes of what he calls ‘veridiction’. These are the specific processes through which the law distinguishes truth from falsity. Dr Seear explores how lawyers describe their own role in establishing agreed facts in legal negotiations. She considers how addiction comes up in their work, how lawyers make arguments about the nature and origins of addiction, and how they frame the agency of people said to be experiencing addiction. She argues that although in public discourse judges are ascribed the status of the law’s key decision-making figures, lawyers’ accounts do not necessarily support this view. Instead, their accounts of the judicial process foreground their own and other lawyers’ role in making strategic assertions and decisions about addiction, despite an absence of training or education in the area. Importantly, lawyers’ accounts suggest little independent oversight – even from judges – of the work that they do in stabilising addiction ‘facts’. These accounts feature centrally in family violence cases. Lawyers’ accounts of addicted agency are often contradictory, highly gendered, with a range of material-discursive effects. Based on these observations, Dr Kate Seear considers the ways such processes of stabilisation impact on women in the legal system whose lives are in some way affected by discourses of addiction as a disease. She argues that legal practices of veridiction are centrally implicated in the making of both gender and health, and that elements of these processes, which are not often publicly visible or subjected to scrutiny, require more analysis.


Dr Kate Seear is a Senior Lecturer in Law at Monash University, Australia. She holds an Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) Fellowship. Kate is a practising lawyer, the Academic Director of Springvale Monash Legal Service, and an Adjunct Research Fellow in the Social Studies of Addiction Concepts research program in the National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University, Australia. She has written extensively on the intersections between alcohol and other drug use, drug law and policy, stigma and discrimination. She is the author, among other things, of the world’s first full-length social science book on hepatitis C and injecting drug use (together with Professor Suzanne Fraser), Making Disease, Making Citizens: The Politics of Hepatitis C (Ashgate, 2011). Much of Kate’s work is empirical and interdisciplinary in nature, and draws upon a range of perspectives and disciplines including social theory, legal ethics and human rights. She often applies insights from her research to her work as a clinical supervisor in Monash University Faculty of Law’s program of clinical legal education. Kate holds honours degrees in sociology and law, and a PhD, all from Monash University.


Date: Tuesday 1 August 2017

Time: 1pm to 2pm. Lunch is available from 12.45pm outside the Moot Court.

Venue: Level 2, La Trobe Law School Moot Court (Social Sciences building, Room 232), La Trobe University, Bundoora

Cost: Free

RVSP: Please register via Eventbrite.

La Trobe